When Janice Bloom finished a conference Friday at a hotel near Dallas Love Field, she stepped into her Toyota Sequoia and punched the ignition button.
The Dallas attorney knew something wasn’t right when she started hearing strange sounds under the hood.
“There was a huge vroom,” Bloom told The Dallas Express. “It sounded like something was exploding.”
She tried to drive to a dealership but quickly pulled into an oil change shop. That’s where she got the bad news.
Bloom was the victim of an ongoing local and national problem: catalytic converter theft.
While she was in the conference for six hours, someone stole her catalytic converter and oxygen sensors. No one saw it, not even the hotel surveillance cameras. She reported the crime to Dallas police.
“I was really outraged and felt very violated,” Bloom said. “We spend as much time in our cars these days as our homes. And they cost almost as much as a home used to.”
The FBI told The Dallas Express it considers catalytic converter theft to be an organized crime effort.
“It’s a lucrative business right now,” FBI Dallas spokesperson Melinda Urbina said Tuesday. “There’s an incentive to commit the crime, and they operate like any big theft ring.”
“Catalytic converter rings operate like South American organized crime groups that target individuals and businesses who sell jewelry or only operate in cash. They are a theft group, and catalytic converters are their commodity.”
“Many of the crimes involve violence and operate across state lines,” Urbina said.
The problem goes beyond individuals showing up at a scrap yard to sell a part.
“You can catch the people who are stealing them, but that is not necessarily going to solve the problem,” Urbina said. “There are people above them who take the property and get top dollar for it illegally.”
The FBI in Dallas is working with local police departments to crack down and identify the people and enterprises involved, she added.
“We have been actively working with the Carrollton Police Department,” Urbina said. “We work with many local police partners to address this growing problem.”
Last November, the Justice Department announced the arrest of 21 people allegedly involved in a national catalytic converter theft ring that involved more than $545 million in assets.
Law enforcement at the federal, state, and local levels seized homes, bank accounts, cash, cars, and jewelry from the defendants, according to an FBI news release. They were charged with conspiracy to transport stolen catalytic converters and conspiracy to commit money laundering.
“This national network of criminals hurt victims across the country,” FBI Director Christopher Wray said in a news release. “They made hundreds of millions of dollars in the process — on the backs of thousands of innocent car owners.”
The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) says there has been a tenfold increase in catalytic converter thefts since 2018. More than 14,000 were reported stolen in 2020, according to the NICB.
However, the actual number of catalytic converter thefts per year is likely much higher, according to data from Carfax, a company that tracks information on vehicles across the country.
After reviewing millions of service records and accounting for catalytic converter replacements due to deterioration, defects, and recalls, the company estimated there were 153,000 catalytic converter thefts in 2022. This figure reflects a 2% increase over the previous year, as reported by KTLA 5.
Carfax believes that many catalytic converter thefts are not reported to insurance companies because some vehicle owners only have partial insurance coverage or none at all.
Many of the stolen parts were sold for hundreds of dollars at scrap yards because of the valuable metals they contain, especially palladium and platinum.
“Homeland Security Investigations will continue to focus its efforts on keeping these types of criminal elements off our streets while dismantling the groups behind these and other thefts,” Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security John K. Tien said in a news release.
Texas is second in the country for catalytic converter thefts, according to the FBI.
A bill in the state legislature would allow Texas prosecutors to treat catalytic converter theft as organized crime, as previously reported by The Dallas Express. Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill in 2021 that makes it a felony in Texas.
“It’s giving more flexibility for prosecutors, so hopefully they can really throw the book at somebody,” state Sen. Carol Alvarado (D-Houston), one of the sponsors of Senate Bill 224, told Waco TV station KWTX.
Alvarado named her bill the Deputy Darren Almendarez Act. Almendarez was a Harris County deputy who was shot and killed off-duty in 2022 while trying to prevent the catalytic converter from being stolen from his truck.
“The metals in the catalytic converter are so valuable, they’re pushing people to commit these thefts,” Alvarado’s spokesperson, Jacob Ayers-Briseno, told The Dallas Express on Tuesday. “The senator wants this to be a deterrent.”
The Addison and Frisco city councils voted to make possession of a removed catalytic converter illegal.
Addison made the offense a Class C misdemeanor. Individuals found guilty will face a $500 fine.
Thefts increased by 150% from 2021 to 2022 (107 instances to 275) in Addison.
Metal recyclers and individuals will have to prove ownership. The ordinance requires individuals selling used catalytic converters to provide documents proving the year, make, model, vehicle identification number, and title of the car from which the catalytic converter was removed.
All of the efforts are of little solace to Bloom, who is having to pay $6,700 to have her Sequoia repaired. Insurance will pick up all costs except for a $500 deductible.
“My takeaway is this,” Bloom said. “Though you can have a gazillion cops in this city, you’re not going to be able to deter this. But maybe we can avoid a ring if we have enough cops monitoring things.”
“We need more police officers patrolling the streets and watching out for this. We do not have enough police in this city.”
Bloom said she asked the Toyota dealership to put a shield around her new catalytic converter to keep it from happening again.
“I wanted to make it very difficult,” she said. “Imagine if I did not have good insurance and a good dealership. Most people would not have known what to do.”
Mine was stolen 3weeks ago at at Kroger parking lot in Garland TX. I was in the store maybe 15 min and my dog was in the car. It cost me $691 to replace it. I am a widow and live on Social Security. It is unbelievable that these thieves can get by with this. The people who buy them should go to prison/ They know they are stolen.
Kroger is the worst for security. You can buy their groceries but they can put security on the parking lots to protect your cars.
As I recall the Dallas Police had the catalytic converters stolen from every police vehicle in the far north or north east Dallas police station one night a few years ago. (or was I dreaming?)
It seems that DallasExpress should have mentioned this in the article!
I thought that was actually fitting. It may have helped focus their attention on a major crime network a little more tightly.
Texas is second in the country for catalytic converter thefts, according to the FBI.
A bill in the state legislature would allow Texas prosecutors to treat catalytic converter theft as organized crime, as previously reported by The Dallas Express [LINK]
Ms. Bloom sorry for the thief. Catalytic Converters are not high on the list of solving crime. $500.00 fine they are out of jail in five minutes, this is not FBI Director’s Wrays priority.
You want to pull police of Rape, murder, home invasion, assault and kidnapping, to watch your car.
You are a Lawyer and want pay to park your car or truck in a safe place but the police should be watching your vehicle.
Carrollton, Addison and Frisco, will start recruiting from Dallas.
A 6 hour meeting was that meeting focused on crime, just wondering.
RE: “The Addison and Frisco city councils voted to make possession of a removed catalytic converter illegal. Addison made the offense a Class C misdemeanor. Individuals found guilty will face a $500 fine.”
This is an absolute joke! Does anyone REALLY believe that the threat of the $500 fine and a Class-C misdemeanor charge will stop this problem? Come one DFW area cities! Make this crime a FELONY and make the fine in the tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of $. Our cities and lawmakers are sitting on their hands by not doing enough to stop this.
After our second theft we’ve added a Cat Shield as a deterrent